07/29/2009: "Quilters To Kenyan"
Local Mother/Daughter Team to Teach Quilting to Kenyan Women
Two local quilters will travel to Kenya August 3 to give some impoverished women hope in the form of a new means of income: Quilting.
Kitty Sorgen and Jill Urbach will teach at the Mashaka Children’s Center, a primary school in Meru, Kenya, north of Nairobi. The Mashaka Children’s Center educates 105 students.
Many of these students are AIDS orphans, have lost family members to genocide, or are without fathers because they have either left to find work or have abandoned the family completely.
The caregivers of these children, primarily women, struggle daily to find labor that would earn them a couple of dollars or a sack of potatoes.
Dr. Gladys Mwiti, founder of Oasis Africa which runs the Mashaka Children’s Center, had a dream of teaching the Mashaka women to quilt so they could create items to sell to tourists.
A chance comment at a women’s retreat on Orcas Island in March led to the development of the Africa Quilting Project, headed by Kitty Sorgen in Friday Harbor and Dr. Mwiti in Kenya.
“It’s been an amazing progression,” Sorgen states. “We have had so much community support for this project. And the local quilters have been particularly helpful in preparing for this.”
In addition to donating funds for the project, the local quilters have helped design and make the portable sewing kits that will be brought to Kenya and distributed to the students. The larger quilting community has helped as well. For example, internationally known fabric designer Kaffe Fassett donated two huge boxes of fabric when Sorgen emailed him to tell of her plans.
“Everybody has been so generous, and we are truly grateful,” Urbach commented.
The women have raised enough funds to get the project off to a strong start, but they are still raising the additional funds to continue the training program for six months.
Urbach will remain in Kenya for three weeks to train another teaching assistant. Sorgen will remain through September, at which point a project coordinator will have been hired and trained to continue to oversee the project for the remainder of the six months.
Donations for the Africa Quilting Project can be made out to Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 946, Friday Harbor, WA 98250. Please put “Africa Quilting” in the memo line.